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What Makes a Gourmet Chef

What Makes a Gourmet Chef

A gourmet chef is the pinnacle of aspirations for professional chefs. It is the culmination of many years of training and hard work and is something held in very high esteem. For those who wish to achieve such heights, here is some information about the gourmet chef’s role along with details about required training and what type of equipment is needed to be able to perform it.

The Gourmet Chef Defined

The term ‘gourmet’ can be defined in numerous ways but in restaurant terms, it most often refers to a class of food featuring high-quality ingredients prepared and presented in elaborate or specialized ways by a very experienced team of professionals.

It naturally follows then that a ‘gourmet chef’ is one who possesses an immense amount of talent, skill and experience in the culinary arts. In professional kitchens, a gourmet chef is to usually referred to as the executive or head chef.

A gourmet chef is not just highly skilled in cooking but also in running a restaurant. One could think of them as the captain of the ship.

They:

  • Plan menus
  • Source ingredients
  • Prepare budgets and ensure they are adhered to
  • Oversee staff
  • Quality check prepared dishes
  • Ensure compliance with health and safety standards
  • Meet diners on request

Many gourmet chefs work in fine dining restaurants but others in five-star hotels, cruise ships or as even private chefs to celebrities, sporting professionals or those who are time-poor but can afford to outsource food preparation.

To become a gourmet chef, one needs to possess a great range of skills all of a very high standard.

A Gourmet Chef's Skillset

  • Strong leader
  • Ability to withstand high levels of stress/pressure
  • Highly creative
  • Years of hands-on culinary experience
  • A keen eye for details
  • Management Aptitude
  • Ability to budget (to both source food and minimize waste)
  • Very organized
  • Willing to accept criticism

Gourmet Chef Training

As in many things in life, gourmet chefs are able to work their way up from the bottom to the top in a professional kitchen. Generally speaking, they start out with menial – yet essential – tasks such as preparing vegetables. In time, they can move to cooking entrees and working as a line cook (ie. working within one of the kitchens many cooking stations). The next step is sous chef and then to the executive level.

While years of experience most certainly count, education is also very highly valued on the path to becoming a gourmet chef.

There are two broad options:

  1. A culinary institute or college's culinary arts diploma
  2. A bachelor's degree

The former covers all the basic skills required to enter into a professional kitchen. The latter covers the basics but delves deeper into hospitality topics such as finance, management, leadership and human resources.

Taking it Further by Earning Those Coveted Stars

Many gourmet chefs dream of their restaurant being ‘hatted’ or receiving a prestigious Michelin star. The Michelin star system has a rich history, beginning in the early 1900’s when the tire company wrote and marketed a guidebook to encourage French residents to take road trips. It then developed into the program known today, where anonymous reviewers sample restaurants’ cuisines and rate them on a star system.

The Michelin star system:

  • 1 star – a good restaurant with high quality dishes, worthy of a stop on a road trip
  • 2 stars – an excellent restaurant with outstanding quality dishes, worthy of a detour
  • 3 stars – an exceptional restaurant often with signature dishes, worth a special trip
  • Bib gourmand – a special recognition for high quality food at a value price
  • Rising stars – given to those restaurants likely to be starred in future Michelin Guide editions

Overall, it appears it is much harder to progress to further stars once a restaurant has earnt one. To earn even one requires much commitment by the gourmet chef to their craft and restaurant to consistently achieve creative and flavor-filled cuisine. It also requires a certain amount of luck as legend has it is there are only a limited number of Michelin reviewers in each country where they produce the guidebooks.

You can see the range of chefs throughout the world that use Kamikoto’s products, and their Michelin Star ratings on our chefs page.

Average Salary of a Gourmet Chef

According to 2016 US Bureau of Labor statistics, the median salary for a gourmet chef is $43,180 per year. However, the top 10% of earners in that same year made $76,280 or more.

Some gourmet chefs earn much more than this amount, particularly if they have been hatted or garnered media and/or celebrity attention. Paid endorsements for culinary products can also take their earnings into a higher bracket.

Gourmet Chef and Kitchen Essentials

The most important tool in a gourmet chef’s arsenal is a full set of professional knives. A vital accompaniment is a good quality sharpening whetstone to keep knives perfectly honed, safe and ready for use during busy service.

Some other important essentials

  • Sturdy cutting boards in various sizes
  • A full professional chef’s uniform
  • An extensive range of pots, pans and bakeware
  • An array of utensils (spatulas, measuring spoons and jugs, graters, thermometers etc)
  • Similarly, a gourmet chef requires a well-stocked kitchen to enable them to perform to their utmost.

Some kitchen essentials include

  • High-end equipment: multiple-burner stovetops, refrigerators, freezers, dual-ovens, industrial ventilation systems, mixers, warming lights and bays to name just the basics. Depending on the restaurant cuisine, specialty equipment such as rotisseries may also be needed.
  • A well-stocked and accessible pantry: a full range of spices and comestibles from fresh food to canned ingredients.
  • Adequate storage
  • A separate pot washing area

That is a brief explanation of what is involved in becoming a gourmet chef. Apart from much studying, training and on-the-job experience, it also takes tenacity and perseverance to achieve such a status. But as many gourmet chefs would say, the results are well worth it, particularly if it is your passion.